Culture change can start with acknowledging the pain and respecting the expertise

This post is a reprint of a recent article in AFR.  For me the article’s ethos highlights an opportunity for us all to change our thinking from believing we are all experts on everything to acknowledging and valuing many, many people have dedicated their lives to obtaining expertise is specialist fields. I have been working with teachers for 15 years
“Schools are complex ecosystems, interconnected and intertwined communities that require qualified practitioners to navigate and to educate so that we can give our next generation all the skills they need to make informed choices in their lives.”
I have been working with farmers all my life and listening and hearing their ask to be seen, heard, understood and valued.
I watch from the side lines the pain Indigenous Australians continue to feel.
Surely creating a culture we all want to be part of is a shared responsibility that starts by acknowledging the pain and the respecting the expertise

Fed-up school principal says critics ‘have no idea’

Julie Hare Education editor

The head of an elite private school has railed against baseless attacks and misinformed opinions about teachers by politicians “who actually have no idea what they are talking about” while calling out their remedies for complex issues, such as falling educational standards, as simplistic.

Briony Scott, the principal of Wenona School in North Sydney, said teachers were trivialised, their profession bastardised and their contribution overlooked by a generation of political decision makers who see the world in black and white and have no comprehension as to the complexity of the school “ecosystem”.

Outsiders and politicians like to tell Briony Scott how to do her job and she’s had enough. Louie Douvis

In an impassioned speech at a conference about female educational leaders, Dr Scott said everyone, having attended a school at some stage, considered themselves an expert with their opinions often misinformed and too-rarely imbued with facts or evidence.

“Every couple of years an education minister or prime minister will say something along the lines of ‘we should focus on the basics of how to read and write’. And I’m like, oh, I hadn’t thought of that one,” Dr Scott said.

“They say schools must focus on character and values and in my head I’m thinking ‘have you heard of Aristotle? What do you think we have been doing for the last 2000 years’?

“And then I think, they have no training, but they [think they] know more about my profession, what I do with my three degrees and where I have worked on the ground for decades. Tell me again, how to do my job.”

Dr Scott elaborated on the complexity of the teaching profession by detailing what is not, in theory, part of her job, but is nevertheless intrinsic to it.

“I’m not a family counsellor, but I have sat with children and held their wrists as they were bleeding, patched countless self-harm injuries, told a child that their mother has died and they just found her body,” Dr Scott said.

“I’ve ridden in far too many ambulances to count, counselled warring parents, dealt on the front line with medical issues, accidents, alcoholism, mental health, breakdowns, suicide, domestic violence, murder, bankruptcy, unemployment, homelessness, and couch-surfing primary school students. Tell me again, how to do my job.”

She went on. “I’m not a medical doctor. But I have students who are walking around with defibrillators in case their heart stops, epi pens in case their body stops, nebulisers in case their lungs stop. And yes, I confess to the crime of talking about sexuality. I have talked to my students about sex and consent, long before it became a political football or an openly discussed subject,” she said.

“I’m not a police officer, but I give students advice about where to go when they’ve been assaulted or raped. What to do if someone stalks them online or at the bus stop. I explained over and over that child pornography laws apply to them if they send a naked photo of themselves online, even if their boyfriends ask them to, or how to get out of a car when the person who wants to drive has drunk too much. Tell me again how to do my job.”

Dr Scott said she is not an extrovert, but has dressed in too many ridiculous costumes to count to raise money and awareness for various issues. Neither is she an expert in cybersecurity but has found herself helping a 14-year-old take down a porn site she created so people would like her more.

She is not a lawyer, but has spent days in courtrooms as an expert witness, prepared subpoenas, “interpreted and misinterpreted court orders, parent restraining orders, and been threatened with legal action too many times to list”.

She said she had been imperiled, trolled and “silenced by those who think I should know better”.

“Education is my profession. And despite popular but lazy stereotypes, I don’t expel students for vaping or for being obnoxious or for having dodgy parents. I don’t turn my back on the quirky, the illiterate and the children who aren’t gifted.”

“The whole purpose of education is that it is given to every child so that they have the opportunities to make informed choices about who they want to be, what they want to do and where they want to go. I appreciate that it doesn’t always work this way and that we have huge inequalities that need addressing.”

Dr Scott said politicians had in recent months accused teachers of being extremists, of indoctrinating students on gender fluidity and climate change “because of this belief that we can’t be trusted”.

She said teachers were judged by school performance in various tests, such as NAPLAN, PISA, higher school certificate and ATAR – “all interesting measures but frankly, the equivalent of a butter knife in an operating theatre”.

‘Dud teachers’

In March, Stuart Robert, then acting federal education minister, blamed “dud teachers” for the decline in the academic results of Australian school students.

He told an independent schools conference that the “bottom 10 per cent of teachers” who “can’t read and write” were a key reason for Australia’s plummeting performance in the international education benchmark tests.

“Our society has the right to determine and influence what happens in schools. I have no problem with that. But schools are not political playing fields nor are we chess pieces to be moved at the whim of others,” Dr Scott said.

“Schools are complex ecosystems, interconnected and intertwined communities that require qualified practitioners to navigate and to educate so that we can give our next generation all the skills they need to make informed choices in their lives.”

Dr Scott said it was time teachers stood up and defended their profession because without doing so, they were “handing it to people who have no idea how to do this job”.

Julie Hare is the Education editor. She has more than 20 years’ experience as a writer, journalist and editor. Connect with Julie on Twitter. Email Julie at
  •  #CreatingaBetterWorldTogether

What does is take to be a changemaker?

What does is take to be a changemaker?

Such an important question

My uncle is Emeritus Professor David Lindsay AO FTSE. He has spent his entire life trying to create a movement to bring the Australian Wool industry into 21st century  

If the powerbrokers aren’t listening to some-one with his credibility  how do everyday people like you and me drive change?

As an aside – my uncle Dave was always popular with the ladies – my cousin Helen ( on the right) and me were flower girls at his wedding

Speaking of legends and doing a deep dive into the family history. There have been some amazing women in my life. I adored my grandmother, she was devasted when her youngest son was run run over by a truck at the farm before his second birthday – she endured so much and she was such a lady. I will never forget the day she asked me to cash in her Dairy Farmers Co-op shares to find  what  she  was  forced  to buy  50  years  previous, now  as a dry shareholder they were basically  worthless

I called my son Nicholas Phillip to honour her journey

Nick and Gran at my cousin Michael’s ( uncle Dave’s son) wedding

We are all a product of our life experiences, our biases are often handed down from generation to generation without even knowing the back story  

Knowing the past can help better inform the decisions we make in the future

The past is a funny thing. Humans love to reflect and study the past as a way of trying to make sense of our world today. As Carl Sagan once famously put it “You have to know the past to understand the present.” But the past is also complex and frustrating. The more we try to understand it and learn from it, the more it confounds us.

Human nature, it seems, is to constantly question and wonder “what if?” This is absolutely true at the personal level. As individuals, we constantly ask ourselves, if I had only done this differently, how would things have changed? Or, what if I said this instead of that, or reacted in this manner as opposed to that manner? While it can be frustrating and resulting in much soul-searching and sleepless nights, I truly believe such introspection is healthy and ultimately helps us in making decisions in the future. Source 



Time for agriculture to deal with the impact of the “Haters”

There is no-one I have met who exemplifies courage more that Emma Ayliffe and as the person who nominated Emma Ayliffe for Australian Young Farmer of the Year,  I found reading this interview so hard.

When the first thing a young person like Emma has to think about is how to manage the “haters” you wonder is the sector you have invested your life’s work into worth the effort.

I know too well how my son and my former husband struggled with dealing with the “haters”.

I know too well what you must lose when you put yourself out there to change the conversations around agriculture.

If there is anything agriculture needs to change it’s how they celebrate people doing it differently.

Supporting young people to change the conversations about agriculture.

Its almost 20 years since I returned to my farming roots and went on a mission to change the conversations around agriculture.

  • Agriculture as a career choice
  • Agriculture’s environmental credentials

My vision was for agriculture to be perceived an exciting industry
– where innovation, disruption and creativity are fostered,
– where careers with purpose can grow limitlessly and
– where partnerships across sectors are encouraged and nurtured

– that was part of the solution to solving the world’s wicked problems.

When my work started attracting young people and they become the focus of our work and the face of our programs, my team asked ourselves how can we give back to them as individuals and the organisations that support them.

To achieve this we asked them what they wanted. What did they say

Young people said we may be only 20% of the populations but we are 100% of the future  we want agency and voice in designing that future.

We then asked schools and teachers who are given the important role of ensuring young people are ready for the reality of life beyond the classroom what they want

They said we want:

  • an Ecosystem of Expertise we can tap into where our students are connecting  with real people, with lived experiences to investigate real issues together.
  • opportunities for our students to enhance their wellbeing, build their reliance and leadership skills.

To achieve this we have 3 foundation programs:

Our school programs (The Archibull Prize – secondary school )and Kreative Koalas -primary school ) engage students in agricultural and sustainability awareness, understanding and action through art, design thinking, creativity, teamwork, and project development.

The face of our school programs are our Young Farming Champions. Young people who are role models of who you can be in agriculture who we train to be confident communicators and trusted voices. They become dedicated life long learners like me committed to changing the conversations around agriculture. Our Young Farming Champions represent the diversity of people in agriculture. Sam Wan is a first generation Australia forging a career as wool broker still turning up every month to our workshop to learn how she can wake up tomorrow to do it better

Twenty years ago when I returned to the farm, I was flabbergasted when someone said to me farming was an esoteric career. I was frustrated to see  stories about women in agriculture being focused on our shoes.

I was even more horrified by statistics like this from some research Fiona Nash commissioned

In my previous role as Federal Minister for Regional Development, I examined a six-month period of regional stories across the two major metropolitan newspapers in Sydney and Melbourne.

The findings:

  • In Melbourne, 80% of the regional stories were negative, 15% were neutral, and just 5% were positive.
  • In Sydney, around 75% were negative and only 25% were positive.

When this is the narrative city people are fed, it’s no wonder they fail to understand the reality in the regions, the huge driver the regions are for city economies as well as regional economies, and the huge, untapped opportunity they present for businesses and individuals alike. Source

Young  people like Sam are changing the conversations around agriculture and Action4Agriculture is super pumped to be supporting Next Gen to do that in the agriculture sector and in the community.

How can we ensure that investment continues?

The Power of Strategic Partnerships

Seeing things from another person’s point of view can feel like putting on a new pair of glasses

Like the non-renewable energy sector, agriculture is participating in the race to develop and scale solutions that will pave the way for a greener world. To enable the net-zero transition, farming businesses and the value chains they supply are reimagining nearly every aspect of their businesses, from partnerships to talent and innovation. Doing so requires creating the right conditions to foster innovation, as well as investing in the right resources.

At Action4Agriculture we are working with highly diverse strategic partners that bring outside perspectives to how to source agriculture’s talent pool.

We are being energized by our partnerships with:

We are looking forward to creating a culture in agriculture where getting outside perspective is the norm. It requires deliberate effort and we are confident it will produce so much value. Whilst switching perspectives can be surprisingly hard to accomplish. it gives us the best possible information from which to advocate, allows us to examine our contribution to a situation (which enables us to then change it if we desire), and empowers us to design a workable solution..

Seeing things from another person’s point of view can feel like putting on a new pair of glasses: initially it takes work and focus and may feel unpleasant before your eyes adjust. But getting that perspective is important. It helps us move from a black-and-white (and often biased) view of a situation to having a “learning conversation,” where we grow in our understanding of an issue rather than remain stuck. ” Alex Carter “Ask for More”

Footnote. The Web Development & Consulting Club provides opportunities for passionate students to gain industry experience by establishing pro bono projects on website design and development and to give back to the University of Auckland and the local community by offering our services.

#CreatingABetterWorldTogether #SuccessIsAJourney #CommunitesofPractice #StrategicPartnerships

Social impact – if you could wave a magic wand what would you fix?

I work in the social impact space and I am appreciating participating in peer learning groups, being exposed to new stimuli and having opportunities to reflect and reset..

Inspirational speaker panel- How awesome are peer learning groups, being exposed to new stimuli and having opportunities to reflect and reset.. 

A fortnight ago I had a 30 min zoom call with some-one who asked me some great questions including what success looks like for me.

After a fortnight of:

I am confident I now have a lot more clarity on what the 5 pillars for success looks like for me underpinned by the 5th pillar

  1. A fit for purpose education system that prepares young people for the reality of work and supports them to thrive in life
  2. A fit for purpose agricultural workforce strategy and roadmap
  3. Clear Pathways to get between  1 and 2
  4. Agriculture fixes its social and environmental justice red flags
  5. The agriculture sector connecting, collaborating, codesigning and creating success together

If success is a marathon not a sprint how far have, we travelled?

  1. Excitingly we have travelled a significant distance to achieve No 1 – A fit for purpose education system that prepares young people for the reality of work and supports them to thrive in life.

Great examples include:

The main roadblock to the finish line appears to be the focus on ATAR scores instead of the  The Alice Springs (Mparntwe) Education Declaration which will require a significant culture change in schools and an attitude change by conversative politicians.

  1. A fit for purpose agricultural workforce strategy and roadmap. The good news here is we have crossed the starting line.  The Action4Agriculture team look forward to having their Action4Youth initiative funded to experiment and see what works, what has potential and what we can park
  2. Clear Pathways between 1 and 2. I am confident if funded Professor Felicity Blackstock can bring together a team of bright minds to make this vision a reality
  3. Agriculture fixes its social and environmental justice red flags. We know what we need to do, building a critical mass to make it happen is another thing. We must focus on the huge cost of inaction on this one
  4. The agriculture sector connecting, collaborating, codesigning and creating success together. This one is particularly close to my heart and I will continue to work with my tribe to celebrate the wins on this one – no matter how tiny

What are you optimistic about?

Advocacy – facts matter but it is how you use them that determines how much impact you have

Advocacy is a science – a lot of smart minds have spent a great deal of time researching what works and what doesn’t and how to tailor (frame) your message to the audience you want to reach. 

Here are two examples

One is best practice

Source: Coalition for Conservation

The other is an opportunity lost


In April our Young Farming Champions will be participating in a workshop under the tutelage of the wonderful Gaye Steel former National Marketing Manager of McDonalds and Telstra.  Gaye will share with agriculture’s Next Gen advocates the dangers of reinforcing the negative ( agriculture’s area of expertise) and how to flip the conversation (like to the Coalition for Conservation have )

Agriculture – how do we make it an esoteric career choice no more????

I remember when I was returning to the farm and still doing a few shifts in pharmacy and I would meet new people and they asked me what was my day job I would alternate between saying I was a farmer and a pharmacist

I remember vividly the day some -one replied “That’s an esoteric career” when I said I was a farmer . ( BTW I had to look up the word esoteric later)

This inspired me to go on a journey and work with the Action4Agriculture Young Farming Champions to “normalise” careers in agriculture.

How are we doing that?

We start by telling people agriculture- farming, food and fibre is so much more than the farm

  • It starts before the farm with custodianship of the land and the sea.
  • It progresses to encompass the farm itself;
  • The stage between the farm gate and the point of sale, which includes value-adding; and shaping of, and by, buyers’ preferences.
  • Throughout the process, there is a significant supply chain component.
  • None of the players in any of these stages stands alone. They are all linked in a web of interdependencies, where harm to one weakens the whole (for example, poor labour hire practices injure the reputation of the whole sector); and, conversely, enhancement of one strengthens the whole (for example, a focus on continuous learning in one industry spills over into another).
  • Cooperation among the players in the various stages benefits the entire sector more than if one gains a temporary benefit by disadvantaging another.
  • Unlike the 20th century, the 21st century has seen a growing realisation in the various elements of the Australian agriculture (farming, food and fibre) sector that they all hang together, and that cooperation is more constructive than conflict.


Then we go on a journey to show and tell and highlight:

We talk about where the growth jobs in agriculture will be in the future

And we advocate to ensure that everyone feels physically, emotionally and identity safe in their workplaces

And we share this with the world in our monthly Muster 


Advocacy at its best – when three very courageous women in agriculture stand up for human rights

My recent post Advocacy at its worst – when agriculture chooses the divide and conquer route to market  created significant discussion.

Problems are challenges to be solved and when we have the right solution we need to advocate at the highest level to ensure those solutions are put in place.

And we have some very wicked problems in Australian agriculture including  human rights and modern slavery issues we should have addressed a long time ago.

The more modern and sophisticated the whole AgriFood sector becomes, the less room there is likely to be for unethical operators, particularly in labour hire, and the mistreatment of transient workers. The Committee is strongly of the view that every possible means should be brought to bear to stamp out these ugly practices. Source 

Photo source The Weekly Times 

What does real advocacy look like – three very courageous women in Session 11 at the recent ABARES conference showed Australian agriculture industry leaders exactly what it looks like.

“This is real issue for industry bodies and it goes to industry leadership we can’t address our workforce labour issues until we deal with the elephant in the room… and stop sweeping our problems under the rug” Professor Joanna Howe

Professor Joanna Howe answers the question “What is the problem”

The problem is, when there’s so many people doing the wrong thing, and when there’s a reliance on undocumented workers and dodgy contractors, which are unregulated, and when the industry hasn’t shown the leadership on these issues, it becomes very, very difficult. The main thing that the industry has fought for, is an ag visa and for more expanded migration pathways without recognizing that they’ve lost their social license. That there are real issues with the industry saying, give us more visas, give us more overseas workers, when investigation, after investigation is showing problems. I think that there is a need for the industry bodies to step up and to own this issue and to face the difficult solutions that will result in structural change.

There are growers that need to go out of business because their business model is based on exploiting workers. There are other growers that can then pick up the slack and expand their operations because they have the economies of scale and the competency, but it’s not just about large business. For example, in the Northern territory, a small mango farmer that we knew, that we interviewed, he brought in six workers on the seasonal worker program. It was more expensive for him to do so, but he was running a very sharp operation and making profits, even though that program is quite expensive, but he knew that it was a better program for him to use than the backpacker program, which is a revolving door for undocumented migrants. It’s not just about the small farms, bad, big farms compliant, that’s not what it is, and there’s not what I’m saying, but the industry needs to recognize that there’s some very hard decisions ahead and just arguing for an agriculture visa without acknowledging the extent of the problem or being open to doing real hard work about it.

For example, industry created the Fair Farms initiative through Growcom in Queensland. Good program, but if I’ll be honest with you, it doesn’t involve … I’m just being honest, it doesn’t involve unions. Yes, it’s got involvement from the Fair Work ombudsman, but the amount, they have very few inspectors across an entire country. We know that there’s problems across this workforce and while unions cause a lot of trouble for farmers, they are a necessary evil. If we’re going to put it that way from the growers perspective. In that, they do monitor standards. If we need to clean up the industry, they’re a part of this and they’re going to be involved. We saw the impact that they can have and the piece rates case. The fair farms program should be tripartite. Otherwise, it’s just the good growers who sign up to that accreditation program and who use it. It does nothing to affect the bad growers who are doing the wrong thing and getting away with it” Watch the video here

What does best practice look like

We ALL have a role to play – everyone in the supply chain from farmers to retailers to consumers can ask themselves what role can I play in stepping up to say no to modern slavery in this country